Honky Tonk Heaven: Legend of the Broken Spoke
directed by Sam Wainwright Douglas and Brenda Mitchell
starring Annetta White, James White
There’s a big reveal in this film: someone announces “A Dance Hall is where a man goes to dance with his wife, a Honky Tonk is where he goes to dance with other men’s wives.” This is information worth rembering, no doubt. Whether you’ve been to Texas or not, you still have this idea of what Texas is: Long horn cattle herded by the Marlborough Man, bar-b-que with sauce on the side, and whoop ass bars. The Broken Spoke is such a place; the famous come to let down their hair and perform on a stage where their hats hit the ceiling tiles when its not raining on them. The Broken Spoke fulfills all these conceits, or did until Austin caught up with it. Once it was out in the middle of nowhere where hooting and hollering and illicit booze and sex could flow. Today it’s surrounded by hip apartment complexes and micro breweries, and it’s not really the same.
The place was built by James and Annette White back in the 1960s and somehow they and the bar have hung in through the decades. All the country greats played there (and still do) – Willie Nelson, Earnest Tubb, Jerry Jeff Walker, and the roster of stars never stops. New bands play there as well. They begin with a Wednesday night gig and work up or out. James White dresses in rhinestone shirts, a Stetson hat and greets everyone who comes in. He’s as big an icon as the bar itself and books the talent. His wife Annetta runs the bar and the kitchen where country fried steak and white gravy are specialties. No fancy micro brews here to confuse the action, its Lone Star and Pearl and Budweiser. We even meet the developers that build the condos around the bar, they promise to keep it but frankly, when the Whites pass away I can’t imagine the spirit remaining the same. If you love country music, dive bars, and dancing with the wrong partner, this is a must see slice of history that won’t be here much longer.
This film was presented as part of the Florida Film Festival